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Monday, May 4, 2015

The Great Modron March - The March Begins

I have wanted to run this adventure for about 20 years, and I finally got it underway last night. It's a big book. It will probably take somewhere around 15 sessions to get it done. I got the pdf for $10 at drivethrurpg here.

This is a classic Planescape adventure by Monte Cook and Colin McComb. I am converting it for 5th edition (which is incredibly easy to do).

I have made a number of posts to help me prepare for this campaign, most notably:
Planescape adventures are, in general, more focused on roleplaying rather than combat, which I thought would be a nice change of pace.

The Party
(Jessie) Bidam - Dragonborn Fighter: He likes to scavenge trash piles
(George) Theran - Elf Wizard - I urged him to not worry too much about offensive spells, as there isn't much combat in this.
The reason I have only two players is because we play at midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning. Very few people can play at that time, but it fits our schedules well.

There were delicious tropical Starbursts (one of my favorite D&D foods) and Mrs. Field's cookies.

The Smoldering Corpse

A dragonborn in Sigil
We kicked it off with our heroes investigating a portal from one of my campaign worlds into the Smoldering Corpse bar in Sigil. The patrons, which included some abishai, a githzerai, and others, just kind of shrugged it off. After all, Sigil is full of portals.

The heroes approached the bar and the dragonborn did some shots of fekk - hard githzerai liquor. One thing I did was to start using copper and silver more. In my games, to save time, I break things down into gold pieces. I figured this time around, I'd use copper and silver more rather than handwaving it. Maybe it would make gold feel more valuable.

The heroes met with Ebb Creakknees, who is a tout (a guide to Sigil). I got to do an old man hillbilly voice which I can't stop doing in real life. They paid the old fellow for a tour of the city. I was able to explain to them all of the basic concepts of Sigil and show them some of the more interesting places.

The heroes were baffled by the Brothel of Slaking Intellectual Lusts (Fun Fact: It was meant to be "Slating", not "Slaking", but there was a miscommunication in the making of Planescape: Torment. I like "Slaking" better so I am using it).

They did go into the Curiosity Shoppe, which is full of cool magic items for sale. They met Vrischika, the blue-skinned alu-fiend who runs the place. She was berating her employee/slave quite a bit. The heroes decided to leave them be, as Vrischika looked powerful.

Jysson the Talking Cat

Once they'd gotten the tour and had become comfortable with Sigil, I dropped the hook on them. They began to feel intense psychic pain, except when they walked in a certain direction. Following the painless path led them to a building in the Clerk's Ward.

After asking some passersby about the building (Baen the Sender and Porphiron from Planescape: Torment) the heroes went in.

Inside, there's a talking cat and a talking book. The book used a power to draw the heroes here. The story goes like this:

The cat was once a man who had bought the book off of a wizard. He was paying for it in installments. The man died and was reborn as a cat in The Beastlands. Eventually, the cat came to Sigil and realized he'd never fully paid for the book, so he wants to find some heroes willing to help him return it.

The wizard who made the book lives in a gate-town called Automata.

Bidam the dragonborn loved the talking cat and hopes to "keep" him. The book talks in a Mary Poppins voice and has a few powers: It's good with numbers, it can cast ESP, and once per day it can let out a stunning blast.

The heroes agreed to help, and were directed to a portal that lead to Automata.


Automata is a town built around a gate to Mechanus, which is a lawful plane (home to the modrons). Upon arrival, the heroes are directed to an office where they must fill out 4 hours of paperwork to get the proper permits. Some of the rules people in Automata must abide by include:
  • Those who shout will be fined.
  • Those with perfume or body odor are fined (the heroes were given powdered deodorant(.
  • The heroes were issued a mandatory handkerchief.
  • Those who swear are fined.
  • Those intending to copulate had to apply for a fornication license, which involves a written examination (I added this one on my own just to see what the PCs did).
The adventurers then set out in search of the wizard, Heiron. They learned that he was being hunted by the Council of Anarchy, a shadowy organization in Automata dedicated to doing disorganized things such as parting your hair on the side rather than down the middle. Or not combing your hair at all!

The heroes almost got in a bit of trouble for stepping on too many cracks on the sidewalk, but were polite about the whole thing.

A monodrone
They were also told about one of the reasons the city was laid out the way it was - every 300 years, thousands of modrons emerged from the gate to Mechanus and marched through the city and into the Outlands in what is known as The Great Modron March. Nobody knows why the modrons do it, but they do it on a schedule.

The adventurers saw a few modrons in Automata. They were monodrones doing menial tasks.

The heroes also encountered a race I've never used before - the Rilmani. Rilmani are like humans but they have metallic skin and glowing golden eyes. They are neutral beings devoted to maintaining the balance between good and evil. I always avoided using them in my old games and I'm not sure why. They are very cool. I haven't heard much about them in later editions.

Herion is in the Closet

The investigation led the heroes to a tiefling named Muenscaal, who the dragonborn tried to flirt with but had no success. Muenscaal was friends with Heiron. She revealed that he was hiding in a closet in the Council of Order building.

The players were baffled by this. How is a guy hiding in a janitor's closet for months? The player of the elf wizard got a bit confused when I said Heiron was "in the closet" but we got it sorted out after much hilarity.

They went to the building, figuring they could bluff their way into the back hallway where the closet was. This proved to be exceedingly difficult. Eventually, the heroes had the talking cat run around, knocking over papers and generally creating disorder (which causes panic in the people of Automata). In the chaos, the heroes headed down the hall.

They gave the "secret knock" on the closet door, as Muenscaal had taught them. Heiron opened the door - and inside was a fabulous mansion. Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion, to be precise!

The heroes showed him the book. Heiron was overjoyed and let them in.

But unbeknownst to our heroes, they had been followed by a wizard named Jezrene and agents of the Council of Anarchy. She cast dispel magic on the closet, cancelling out the Mansion spell and causing the heroes and Heiron to spill into the hallway.

A battle broke out. I rolled extremely poorly, so our heroes had little trouble defeating the anarchists. The dragonborn's acid breath was particularly useful in the cramped hallway.

The combat ended abruptly as chaos erupted outside. The portal to Mechanus, which was just outside the Council of Order Building, flared to life. Thousands of modrons marched out and into Automata. The Great Modron March had begun, 189 years ahead of schedule!

Jezrene and the Council of Anarchy were baffled. Heiron and the heroes fled the scene.

That's where we stopped. It's a great adventure, very unique. I am very interested to see what the players do in Sigil and how this whole thing plays out. 

Click here to continue to the second session, where the heroes must try to stop the modrons from demolishing a lawful good city.


Jason Raabis said...

Awesome session! Can't wait for the next report! How critical to your Planescape understanding was that video game Torment?

Sean said...

Jason: You don't need torment to run planescape, but playing torment helps teach you what the setting is like and how the tone should be. The game is overloaded with awesome NPCs, locations and magic items for you to steal. If you have the time, it is definitely worth playing just to steal material.

Thanks! I'm going to try to get us through the whole adventure, plus a few others before the end of the year.

Jason Raabis said...

I MIGHT have picked up this adventure after reading this session report lol. I can't help but read ahead; you understand :).

Of all the content available detailing Sigil, the single most difficult thing for me to wrap my head around are the factions. They seem so rigid in terms of their dynamics and difficult to develop without them seeming like automatons. Any insight from your experience?

Anonymous said...

I love your blog and have posted anonymously once before. There are a lot of mediocre d&d blogs, but yours rises above the average.

I think you have the slating/slaking issue backwards. It was always meant to be "slaking" (A word usually used with "lust"), but for some reason it ended up in PS: Torment as "slating." Chris Avellone has said in interviews that it was nothing more than a typographical mistake. I read somewhere that it was fixed in a patch (possibly only a fan patch), but on my (unpatched) dvd-rom version of the game it remains as "slating."

Sean said...

Jason: Awesome! It is a classic adventure IMO. The factions.. there's a billion of them, it's very hard to keep them straight. As far as running them, I think that while some members of each one take a really hard stance, others are more flexible - kind of like how some people go to church every day, and others go once in awhile. From what I can tell, though, Xaositects are all completely insane.

Anonymous: Thanks for the kind words, I really appreciate it!

I'll have to look into the slating thing, I sometimes get mixed up. One of the players expressed a renewed interest in the brothel, so maybe the PCs will go there in our 3rd session.